It was nice to see a packed John Kauinana Stadium abuzz for an early-season showdown between two top-five teams.
It was nice to see Saint Louis QB Tua Tagovailoa, the Elite 11 MVP and Alabama commit, spinning and sprinting away from tacklers like he was controlled by someone that couldn’t decide between hitting the B-button for the spin move or holding down the trigger for turbo speed.
It was nice to see the always animated Rod York getting into the face of one of his players after an unsportsmanlike penalty resulted in the ejection of a freshman already starting on the offensive line.
And it’s always nice to see Hawaii’s all-time winningest high school football coach, Cal Lee, roaming the sideline for another year. (Word is he would have stayed until the next morning to get the game in if allowed.)
Unfortunately, as soon as the sun went down over the Waianae Range, the only thing to see from the press box on Saturday night were two football teams literally left in the dark.
A power outage caused by a circuit breaker tripping repeatedly forced the highly-anticipated Trojans/Crusaders game to be called off after the first quarter.
The game won’t be made up this season but that doesn’t mean there isn’t the possibility of these two teams meeting up again in the state tournament.
It might take a little more work on the Trojans’ sideline. After winning a state title in 2014 and advancing to the state semifinals last year, Mililani is in full rebuild mode after losing many key players to graduation, including one of the greatest offensive trios in the history of high school football in Hawaii in QB McKenzie Milton (UFC), RB Vavae Malepeai (USC) and WR Kalakaua Timoteo (Hawaii).
One quarter on Saturday was enough, however, to show that for the Trojans to get back to states, it’s about a lot more than just replacing those three. Mililani started two juniors, two sophomores, and a freshman, Sergio Muasau, on the offensive line. Muasau got a quick introduction to life at the varsity level when he was ejected from the game for throwing a punch at a Saint Louis player on the ground, resulting in quite the heated response from York.
Sophomore QB Dillon Gabriel is going to be a good one, but his receivers will need to step up. Six of the top seven receivers from last year are gone with seniors Andrew Valladares and Roman Tovi needing to carry the load.
The defense, with six senior starters, will have to be stout, especially early on. Senior lineman Joshua Banks made his presence felt early with a rare sack of the elusive Tagovailoa.
York brought Mililani its first state title and has won at least 10 games in four consecutive seasons. Him and his entire coaching staff are going to be tested this year to get Mililani back to where we’re used to seeing them at the end of the season — on the field at Aloha Stadium.
FOR THE CRUSADERS, you can see why they’re itching to get back to the state tournament where you know they want to see the defending champion Kahuku Red Raiders. Not only do they have the best QB in the country, but Tagovailoa has four senior receivers he knows very well to throw to, along with a familiar face in the backfield in running back Jahred Silofau, whose 15-yard TD run was the only score in the one quarter played on Saturday.
Georgia Tech commit Michael Minihan (6-3, 285) anchors a strong offensive line and the defense, once it gets back Isaac Slade-Matautia, who did not play against the Trojans, should be in great shape. Cornerback Jalen Saole had perfect coverage on a deep ball he managed to pick off late in the first quarter and linebackers Isaiah Taliulu and Isaiah Feary combined to force and recover a fumble that resulted in another Mililani turnover.
Saint Louis had a 133 to 34 edge in total yards after a quarter and Tagovailoa completed passes to seven different receivers. Had the game continued, it felt like Saint Louis was fully in control and about ready to open it up on the scoreboard.
But we’ll never really know, will we? It will always be the game that never was. That is, unless these two teams find themselves on the same field again come November.